The Free Response Questions

The Free Response Question is the final portion of the exam. Start the questions as soon as you finish the DBQ; there is no break in the writing period. There are four essay questions to choose from; two will be from the period up to and including the Civil War and two from Reconstruction to the present. You must choose one from each set. Like the DBQ, there is no right answer, the answer is based on your analysis of the history. There are no documents to support your thinking, so you will have to try to recall specific ideas or details to validate your analysis. Be very careful not to write a narrative. You will need to show relationships between ideas. Finally, since there is less time for these questions, you will find them to be more focused than the DBQ.

Success is all about following the process.

Process ... Process ... Process

  1. Read the question 3 times, this will help ensure that you don't miss a part.
  2. Break the question into its parts, underline key words or phrases, circle clue words like
    • Evaluate
    • Compare / Contrast
    • Discuss
    • Explain
    • Illustrate
    • Interpret
    • Predict
    These clue words will help you to determine the focus of your analysis
  3. Now that you understand the question, make a list of prior knowledge. This should be everything you can think of that relates to all parts of the question. A good list is 20 or more items long.
  4. Perform your synthesis and analysis to prepare your thesis. Settle on a thesis and write!

What is analysis?
It is the synthesis of information to arrive at a decision. Your ideas and documents have informed your decision.

What is a thesis?
A thesis is the answer to the prompt or question and must answer how or why.

What is the structure of your essay?

A well written FRQ is at least 5 paragraphs in length.
The introduction should provide some historical background, then transition smoothly to the thesis. Finally, it should briefly discuss the synthesis of ideas that lead to your thesis.
The body of your essay should lay out a logical argument, demonstrating your command of the historical knowledge and the purposeful inclusion of accurate and relevant information.
The conclusion must revisit your thesis and discuss your analysis. It is not enough to conclude with "and that's the reason ..." Your conclusion should also be a substantial part of your essay, and even propose a solution to the problem or a course of further action.

Pitfalls to avoid at all costs!

  1. Don't allow your essay to wander beyond the time period specified.
  2. The introduction is one of the most important paragraphs, state your thesis or opinion clearly.
  3. Choose a thesis you can defend the most successfully.
  4. If you use subjective terms, like progressive, liberal or isolationist define it in context.
  5. Answer all parts of the question.
  6. Write as neatly as possible; if your essay is easy to read, the scorer will not have to work as hard to determine the meaning.